Impact of school libraries on learning: critical review of evidence to inform the Scottish education community.
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WILLIAMS, D., WAVELL, C. and MORRISON, K., 2013. Impact of school libraries on learning: critical review of published evidence to inform the Scottish education community [online]. Aberdeen: Robert Gordon University, Institute for Management, Governance & Society(IMaGeS). Available from SLIC website.
The aim of the report is to identify and critically evaluate the available evidence of the impact of school libraries on learning, including attainment, skills and attitudes. The report, commissioned by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), is based on a critical review of UK and international evidence published since 2001 linking school libraries to educational achievement, attainment and learning in secondary education. The objectives were to: • Identify, evaluate and summarise evidence in relation to a number of key questions identified by SLIC; • Assess the applicability of the findings to the potential of Scottish school libraries to impact on Curriculum for Excellence; • Identify gaps in the evidence and suggest areas for further research in relation to Scottish school libraries. The research was designed as an update of the previous review of the impact of school library services undertaken in 2001 by the same team (Williams, Wavell & Coles 2001). The outcomes will inform SLIC strategies in support of school library provision in Scotland. The outcomes should also be of value to policy and decision makers in local authorities and individual schools in their future planning for school library provision, and to individual school librarians in their own strategic planning. The work was conducted between the months of May to October 2013 and the outcomes presented at the Scottish Learning Festival held in Glasgow in September 2013. The findings reveal a considerable body of international evidence showing that school libraries impact on: Higher test or exam scores equating to academic attainment: this includes academic attainment in the form of higher standardised test scores in reading, language arts, history and maths, and better grades in curriculum assignments or exams; Successful curriculum or learning outcomes, including information literacy: this includes higher quality project work, the development and practice of information literacy, increased knowledge and reading development; and Positive attitudes towards learning: including increased motivation, improved attitude towards learning tasks, self-esteem, and wider reading for pleasure. Examination of Curriculum for Excellence documents, including experiences and outcomes for a sample of curriculum subject areas showed links with all three types of learning indicators. Not surprisingly, the closest links were found in cross-curricular Literacy Across Learning, and good links were found between the evidence of impact and the Guiding Principles and Four Capacities for Learning. In addition, the evidence clearly identifies the elements of the library which contribute to the impact on learning: A qualified, full-time librarian, who is proactive and has managerial status; The availability of support staff to undertake routine tasks enabling the librarian to initiate instructional, collaborative and promotional activities as well as professional duties to support collection development; A library that supports physical and virtual access to resources in the library, classrooms and at home, during school hours and beyond; An adequate physical and virtual collection that is current, diverse and supports the curriculum as well as appealing to students’ leisure needs; Networked technology to support information access and use, and knowledge building and dissemination; Instruction that supports individual and curriculum needs of students and teachers, encompassing subject content, information literacy and voluntary reading interests; Collaboration with teaching colleagues, senior management, librarian colleagues and outside agencies, including central schools library services, to ensure the most appropriate services are delivered in support of learning. The majority of the available evidence was found to be from the United States with some significant studies from Australia. Smaller studies at the school level were more widespread. The UK is beginning to lay the foundations for evidence building and a potential source of evidence in the form of shared practice was highlighted. The methodologies used to gather data have been reviewed and their advantages and disadvantages outlined. The major gaps in evidence and implications for further research were found to be: Limited published evidence from Scotland; A lack of evidence about the links or impact between school libraries and the community; The need for appropriate data to be collected to enable the variety of library contributions to be correlated with national examination results; The need to identify a way of collating and systematically reporting the evidence found in shared practice or self-evaluation portfolio documents; The need to identify ways in which head teachers can be made aware of how a school library can contribute to student learning and their role in recruiting appropriate staff and supporting their collaborative and instructional activities. Inspired by the work of Keith Curry Lance, the findings of this review of evidence are summarised graphically below as a quick reference and advocacy tool, showing the difference that a school library can make to the learner.